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The difference between (A)DSL, cable, and fiber optic: what are your organization’s needs?

In this article we'll tell you everything about the properties of and differences between (A)DSL, cable and fiber optic. This will help you decide which solution suits the needs and possibilities of your organization.

Difference (A)DSL, cable and fiber optic

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A stable, fast, and reliable internet connection is no longer a luxury nowadays; it’s an indispensable, basic facility for every organization. It’s one of the cornerstones of digital transformation. As a matter of fact, it’s essential for facilitating the increasingly popular (and often necessary) principle of hybrid working.

When choosing an internet connection, you have three options: cable, (A)DSL, or fiber. Each of these options has advantages, disadvantages, and unique specifications. Fiber is super-fast, but it’s not available everywhere in The Netherlands. Moreover, one can ask whether an investment in business fiber pays off for, say, small businesses with relatively modest internet needs. 

On this page, you’ll read all about the characteristics of and differences between (A)DSL, cable, and fiber. With that information and a good understanding of the differences between the various types of connections, you can decide which solution best suits your organization’s needs and capabilities.


The difference between fiber optic and cable

Cable internet is a form of broadband internet that has been available since the mid-1990s. With cable internet, you make an internet connection through the cable television network using a modem. The transmission of image and sound is provided by a coaxial cable that consists of two parts. Thanks to the capacity of cable, cable internet meets pretty high standards in terms of speed and quality. Cable internet providers have traditionally been TV providers. This means that you must purchase television as a basic service with a cable internet subscription.

Cable internet is available in many places. This is a key difference from fiber, which is still far from being available everywhere, especially in outlying areas. Browsing the internet and watching TV simultaneously does not affect the speed or picture quality with cable internet; it’s also quite stable and fast.

Fiber transmits data via light signals. These pass through hair-thin fibers made of a special kind of glass. The cable transmits signals at lightning speed (at the speed of light) over short and long distances. Compared to cable, fiber is a lot faster. Cable internet typically achieves maximum download and upload speeds of a few hundred MBs per second, but fiber currently reaches speeds of 1 GB (consumer) to as much as 10 GB (business) per second. DELTAfiber is working on higher bandwidths for consumers. In lab tests, technicians achieve much higher speeds. Therefore, fiber-optic technology is nowhere near its limit. In addition to more speed, fiber also provides more bandwidth than cable. What’s more, one doesn’t have to take television with a fiber-optic subscription. You can read more about this technology in the article ‘Everything you need to know about fiber’.

Difference fiber optic private and business use

By the way, there are differences between business fiber optic and fiber optic for personal use. The main differences are:

  • Business connections are deeper underground and, therefore, less likely to be damaged. The tubes are also more robust and of higher quality.
  • Business connections use ring-shaped networks. These are redundant (duplicated) connections that backup a connection.
  • Problems are resolved more quickly for business connections. With Eurofiber, count on 8 hours instead of two days. It’s up to organizations to determine whether this advantage is worth the additional cost.
  • Business fiber has a point-to-point connection. This is more future-proof and makes it easier to increase or decrease bandwidth. Fiber for consumers uses a multipoint architecture. This means that a customer shares its fiber with others through a shared system.     

One of the few disadvantages of fiber, compared to cable, is its limited availability. Some municipalities don’t have a fiber-optic network, while cable internet is available at just about every address within our borders. Fortunately, the number of places installing fiber has grown steadily in recent years. Availability is expected to increase rapidly soon. 

The difference between fiber optic and (A)DSL

(A)DSL is a technology that uses copper telephone lines to receive and send data over the internet. So you need a telephone connection for this internet connection. A modem connects the computer to the telephone line, while a splitter separates the different signals. 

A key difference from fiber is that with (A)DSL, downloading data is faster than uploading. With fiber, there is no difference between the download and upload speeds: they both proceed at the same high speed. The expected speed (or advertised speed) of your fiber-optic subscription also equals the maximum speed, which is not always the case with (A)DSL. Another advantage of fiber over (A)DSL is the robustness of a fiber-optic connection. Because fiber-optic cables work with light signals rather than electric signals and are deeper underground, they are less susceptible to interference than copper DSL cables. 

Fiber is superior to (A)DSL in terms of speed, and the distance to the local switch is not a factor with fiber optics. This is a factor with (A)DSL: the greater the distance between the local switch and your office or home, the slower your connection becomes. The advantages of (A)DSL are its general availability, a large variety of providers, and its limited cost. Plenty of cheap (A)DSL subscriptions are available in The Netherlands. You pay a one-time connection fee and a monthly subscription fee. In this article, you’ll read about the speed of fiber and the technology that makes that speed possible.

The difference between (A)DSL and cable

ADSL relies on copper wiring that runs underground from the main switchboard to the local switch. From that local switch, internet data goes to homes or commercial buildings in the vicinity. The greater the distance between the local switch and the receiver, the slower the internet. Because the entire connection is made of copper wire, a relatively large amount of speed is lost during information transport.

Because ADSL is now a somewhat outdated technology, many providers offering DSL use VDSL or xDSL. These are faster successors to ADSL. In these newer DSL technologies, the wire between the main switchboard and local switch is a fiber-optic cable. The connection to the houses or commercial buildings is still copper. This is mainly because the copper network was already network was already there; they only need to replace a single connection to make VDSL possible. 

A key difference between DSL and cable internet is that you use a coaxial cable with the latter. Originally designed for cable television, coaxial cable can also be used with a cable modem for internet. A major advantage of a coaxial cable is that it is reinforced with an extra layer of protection. This makes coaxial cable more robust than traditional copper and less speed loss occurs with cable internet than with DSL. With cable, the advertised speed is usually the actual speed you experience in daily work practices.

Because each connection has its own frequency on the cable, with cable internet you will notice little or nothing if neighbors or employees of other companies in the same office building are surfing the internet. Depending on the subscription and provider, the speed of a cable connection is a few tens or hundreds of MBs. The maximum is about 1 GB per second. Not as fast as (business) fiber, but faster than DSL. Moreover, the maximum speed does not depend on your location and the distance from the local switch. The choice of providers is more limited than with DSL.

Making the right choice: fiber, cable, or (A)DSL

Fiber, cable, and DSL all have their pros and cons. A conscious choice of internet connection type begins with understanding your organization’s desires and needs. Do you need super-fast internet that makes loading heavy applications and exchanging large files a breeze? Then fiber is the most obvious choice. Can you live with a little less speed but don’t want to sacrifice robustness? Or is fiber not (yet) available at your location? Then cable is a great option. DSL often suffices for sole proprietors with modest digital needs who needs to be penny-wise. In the following article, you can read more about the pros and cons of fiber optic internet.

Thanks to our specialist knowledge and extensive experience in the field of internet, Eurofiber can help you with fiber optics for your organization. We are also able to provide you with a high-quality fiber-optic connection. We have a very meshed network and deliver business fiber at speeds up to 10 GB per second. Thanks to the stability of our fiber-optic network, bandwidth-intensive applications such as streaming in 4k and exchanging large files are no problem at all. Via our Fiber Postcode Check, you can see if Business Fiber is also available in your postcode area.

Fiber optic, the network of today and the future

Business optic fiber: fast, reliable and flexible

Want to know more, or are you looking for expert advice? Then feel free to contact us without obligation by calling +31 (0)30 242 8700 or by emailing us at You can also fill out the contact form on our website - just click on the button below.